Our men and women in the military risk their lives to protect our democracy.
Unfortunately, if they live in New York, they are not being allowed to fully participate in our elections.
In New York, we mail out absentee ballots just weeks before the election, meaning that those in uniform overseas are hard pressed to review and return their ballot by Election Day.
Some help should be on the way. Brooklyn’s own Senator Charles Schumer led the successful effort to pass a new law that requires states to mail absentee ballots at least two months prior to an election. It is a commonsense law that guarantees the right of democratic engagement for all citizens – and especially those who put life and limb at risk.
Fulfilling this requirement requires New York State to move the date of our primary elections, which are currently scheduled for September, to earlier in the year, most likely to June. Otherwise, there is not enough time after the primary for general election ballots to be printed and mailed two months in advance.
Sounds easy enough, right? It should be. Unfortunately New York State has failed to follow this law for the last two years, seeking an exception each time.
This needs to change.
Changing the primary date to June would not only benefit servicemen and women, but all of us. For our democracy to function, voters need the time to learn about candidates for elected office. An earlier primary date will give those running for elected office more time to make their case to the public before the general election and allow New Yorkers to weigh the issues before casting their ballots.
An earlier primary date will also likely increase participation and voter engagement. We all know that between vacations and warm weather, it is harder to pay attention to political issues during the summer months. Our current early September elections come right after Labor Day, which means that peak campaigning time is when the fewest people are paying attention. Moving primaries to the spring would likely increase participation and improve our democracy.
New York needs to do right by its citizens in military service, and everyone else, by moving our primary elections to earlier in the year.